White Slaves and Alien Prostitutes: Trafficking, Protection and Punishment in the Early Twentieth Century

  • Julia Laite
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


In the winter of 1910, nineteen-year-old Lydia Rhodda Harvey was working as a photographer’s assistant in Wellington, New Zealand. She had moved there a few years before, leaving her impoverished family in the small town of Oamaru on the South Island. Like many single young women in the city, she was living in a boarding house, and one night was approached by a man, who offered to introduce her to someone who could help her travel. This had always been a dream of Harvey’s: she accepted, and met a man named Aldo Cellis and a woman named Marie, who called herself his wife. The pair asked Harvey to come with them to Buenos Aires, and made no secret of the kind of work that she would be expected to undertake once there, work for which the woman posing as Cellis’s wife (whose real name was Marie Vernon) was well known in Wellington. Harvey was given high red plush boots and silk underwear, and told that she would ‘not want for anything and be quite happy’. She was warned not to speak to the police and asked to lie to her parents. ‘I was surprised when Mrs. Celli [sic] told me the life I was going to lead,’ Harvey admitted, ‘but she said I should have an easy life with nice dresses and it was that that induced me to go with them and I was also glad to be able to travel.’ Her crossing with Vernon was arranged shortly thereafter, and Cellis met them in South America.1


Police Officer Ordinary Citizen Sexual Trafficking Royal Commission Female Migration 
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  1. 2.
    Edward J. Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice: The Jewish Fight against White Slavery 1870–1939 (Oxford, 1982); Henriques notes that by 1924 seventy-five per cent of the registered prostitutes in Buenos Aires were foreigners. Henriques, Prostitution and Society, Vol III, pp. 289–301.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Elizabeth Robins, Where Are You Going?… (London, 1913); Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall (New York, 1929).Google Scholar
  3. 79.
    Jens Jager, ‘International Police Co-Operation and the Associations for the Fight against White Slavery’, Paedagogica Historica 38, nos 2–3 (2002): 565–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 81.
    John Torpey, ‘The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Passport System’, in Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern World, eds Jane Caplan and John Torpey (2001), p. 257.Google Scholar

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© Julia Laite 2012

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  • Julia Laite

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